the sentinels of vishnu – part #3

continued from part #2

Waking_up_Kumbhakarna

In Treta Yuga, Jaya and Vijaya were born as Kumbhakarna and Ravana. Assuming that most of the readers are familiar with Ravana, I will skip writing about Ravana now. Along with Ravana, Kumbhakarna is also well known, so well known that one who sleeps too much is called a Kumbhakarna and one who has a very sound sleep (including sound making), is said to have a Kumbhkarna nidra.

Kumbhakarna is a very complex character. It is said that even Lord Indra was jealous of him. Once, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Bibhisana did penance together. When it was time to ask for the boon, by a twist of the tongue, instead of asking for Indrasana, Kumbhakarna ended up asking for Nidrasana. The twist of tongue was caused by Goddess Saraswati at the behest of Lord Indra. Lord Brahma said, “tathastu, so be it”. Later on when Ravana realized the mistake he pleaded for the reversal of the boon. Lord Brahma modified it and said that Kumbhakarna would sleep for six months and would be awake during the other six months.

In Dwapar yuga, Jaya and Vijaya were Sishupala and Dantavakra. They were both Krishna’s cousins.

Life is full of strange phenomena. Who knows when your benefactor becomes your malefactor.

Born with three eyes and an extra limb, Sishupala was an odd child. The prophesy was that when someone special takes Sishupala into his hands, he would be cured. But that special person will also be the cause of Sishupala’s death. In search of that special person, his parents invited many eminent persons to their palace and asked them to take him in their hands. However, nothing happened for a long time.

Once, Lord Krishna paid a visit to his aunt and casually took his cousin Sishupala into his arms. Sishupala was instantly cured. Seeing this, his mother was happy. At the same time she was reminded of the other part of the prophecy. So she begged Lord Krishna to spare Sishupala and forgive him in case he did anything wrong or insulted Krishna. Lord Krishna promised that he would forgive one hundred times, but no more than that.

sishupalaLater in life, Shishupala’s would be wife Rukmini was abducted by Lord Krishna. Of course, it was done at the request of Rukmini as she was in love with Lord Krishna and did not want to marry Shishupala. But this was cause enough for Shishupala to nurse a grudge against Krishna. The opportunity to even out with Krishna came during the occasion of Rajasuya yagna of Yudhisthira. Shishupala opposed the selection of Krishna as the chief guest of the function. Arguments followed and Shishupala began insulting Krishna. When the insults crossed one hundred, the Sudarsana chakra beheaded Sishupala. But it was also the moment of mokha for Shishupala and made him regain his place in Baikuntha.

Dantavakra was not only a cousin of Shishupala, but also a close friend of Salva whose death was also caused by Lord Krishna. In order to take revenge an enraged Dantavakra invited Krishna for a mace duel. Dantavakra got killed in the duel. Thus ended the earthly parts played by Jaya and Vijaya as part of Lord’s Leela during three of his avatars.

The stories of Jaya and Vijaya illustrate the oneness and the wholeness of the creation. The best or the worst, all are filled with the divine light and the whole world is a playground of the creator. You may hate somebody thinking he is bad or is villainous. But he is as much a child of the divine as you are. He is as close to the divine as you are. This is the key to unconditional compassion.

the sentinels of vishnu – part #2

 

prahlad natak.jpg
Dying dance form Prahlad Natak staged during Kalua Jatra in Berhampur, Odisha. Image source: DNA India

Continued from Part #1

Hiranyakha’s brother, Hiranyakashipu learns of his brother’s death at the hands of Vishnu in the form of a boar. It fills him with rage and he vows to take revenge. He thinks that the boon of Brahmadev, the creator would help him achieve this. He goes to the Himalayas and engages in severe penance to appease Brahma.

Meanwhile, the devas connive to abduct his pregnant wife Kayadhu. Here, Seer Narada comes to her rescue and protects her. While in the womb, the child, who is later known as Prahlad, is spiritually influenced by Naradji. Prahlad grows up to be a great devotee of Lord Vishnu to the consternation of his father.

Pleased by the severe penance, Lord Brahma appears and asks Hiranyakashipu to put forth his wishes. Hiranaykashipu wants nothing less than immortality, to which, Brahmadev expresses his inability. Alternately, Hiranyakashipu asks to be granted a highly improbable conditional death. He says, “Oh Lord! Grant that let me not be killed by any God, man, demon or beast. Let me not be killed at day nor at night. Let me not be killed on land, in water or in the sky”.

“So be it”, says Lord Brahma and goes back to his abode. When Indra and other gods come to register their protests, Brahmadev assures them that all will be well when Lord Vishnu takes up his next avatar.

Empowered by the boon of Lord Brahma, the arrogance of Hiranyakashipu knows no bounds. He is enraged as he sees that his own son has become the ardent devotee of his sworn enemy. First he tries to win back his son through reasoned friendly counseling. But the hardcore devotee of Lord Vishnu would not budge. Hiranyakashipu runs out of patience and resorts to desperate measures, to the extent of intending to do away with his own son. All his attempts to kill his son is foiled by the timely intervention of Lord Vishnu, who is well known for never failing to protect his devotees.

One such attempt to kill Prahlad involves Hiranyakashipu’s sister Holika. She has an invisible cloak and when she wears it she can pass through fire unharmed. Hiranyakashipu orders her to carry Prahlad in her lap and enter fire so that Prahlad is burnt to ashes while nothing happens to her. However, it so happens that by the grace of the Vayudev – the wind god- the cloak flies out of her body and enwraps Prahlad. Holika is burnt to ashes. This event is celebrated as Hollika Dahan  every year in Feb/March.

Tired of hearing the omnipresence of Lord Vishnu, one day Hiranyakashipu asks Prahlad whether Lord Vishnu is in the pillar nearby. Prahlad says, “Yes”. Enraged, Hiranyakashipu hits the pillar with his mace. To his surprise a strange creature emerges from the pillar. It has the face of a lion and the body of a human being. After engaging with Hiranyakashipu in a duel, at the time of dusk this creature who is actually Lord Vishnu in Narasimha avatar lifts Hiranyakashipu on to his thighs and using its nails tears apart his belly to kill him. Thus, no condition of Bramha’s boon is  violated while killing Hiranyakashipu. The story further goes on to describe the untold rage of Narasimhan which could not be pacified easily even though all the devas applied various means. Finally, Prahlad is brought in and with his humble prayers the Narasimha avatar of Lord Vishnu is pacified.

Indian BloggersPleased with Prahalad’s devotion, Lord Vishnu offers him a boon. Unlike his father, Prahlad does not ask for power, riches or glory.   He is content being a devotee of Lord Vishnu, and asks for his steadfast devotion to continue. Even though his father had been so cruel towards him, he  prays that he be forgiven.

The remote villages and small towns, where I spent most of my childhood days, provided healthy doses of entertainment in the form of dramas, puppetry and other folk performances conducted in open theatres.  Most of the performances would be based on stories from various epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavat Purana etc. At such places, by the time a boy/girl was into his/ her teens, whether he was educated or illiterate, he/she knew all the major stories from the epics, along with their moral and ethical implications.  One such popular performance  was Prahlad Natak, a musical dance drama with resemblance to Kerala’s Kathakali dance format. The drama would start in the morning and continue till late night or the morning next day. Before the battle finale, the actors playing Narasimhan and Hiranyakashipu would be bound in iron chains with two groups of strong men in control of each actor. The elders would explain that if it is not done, the actors may kill each other. Towards the end, the actors identify themselves with the characters so much they forget that they are acting out the roles. As I remember, after the killing episode of Hiranyakashipu, the actor playing Narasimha would reach a trance like state. The actors playing the roles of Hiranyakashipu and Narasimha, have to be not only highly skilled in acting, but also disciplined enough to  follow prescribed rituals strictly a few days before the enactment of the play till its end. Unfortunately,  many of such traditional performances are on the verge of extinction due to lack of artists, audience and patronage.

the sentinels of vishnu

jaya vijaya.jpg
image source: pinterest

Ancient Indian legends or the stories from our puranas are not mere stories for entertainment. Each story also illustrates an eternal truth or an important lesson. Some of the puranas like the Bhagvat purana attempt to illustrate the principles of upanishads and other philosphies for the easy understanding of the common man. The two prominent epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata take us into deeper inquiry with regard to not only finding meaning in  life for an individual but also dealing with the complex social issues.

The stories of Jaya and Vijaya,  as narrated in Bhagvat Purana and further elaborated in various other puranas, are really fascinating. Jaya and Vijaya are not only the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu, but are also two of His closest devotees. Yet, in subsequent births they are the villains becoming fierce opponents of Lord Vishnu during some of His avatars. Jaya and Vijaya took birth as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in Satya yug, as Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Tretaya Yug and as Dantavakra and Shishupal in Dwapara Yug.

 In some mystical texts of ancient origin, it is also stated that Jaya and Vijaya are not different from Lord Vishnu. Of course it seems strange. But the stories of Jaya and Vijaya are in line with the following statements from Upanishad and other mystic ancient literature:

“One become two and then many, and finally many dissolve into the one”

Good and evil always co-exist. The Chinese concept of co-existence of opposing forces as found in the writings of Lao Tzu and other Taoist philosophers also finds resonance here.

According to the Bhagavata Purana, once the four sons of Lord Brahma also known as Sanat Kumaras, went to meet Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha Dham. The four sanat kumaras are Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumar. It is said that due to regular spiritual practices they looked like children. So the gatekeepers did not take them seriously. However, when they insisted that they be allowed to go inside without delay, Jaya and Vijaya told them that Lord Vishnu was taking rest and they have to wait till He wakes up. At this, the kumaras were enraged and told that Lord Vishnu is available all the time for their devotees. Further, the kumaras cursed the gatekeepers for their insolence so as to be born in the mortal world leaving their heavenly bode. Subsequently, the gatekeepers asked forgiveness of the kumaras and requested Lord Vishnu to waive off the curse. Lord Vishnu told that the curse of divine beings like the kumaras cannot be reverted. However, he wanted to commute the punishment. So He gave the gatekeepers two options – either to be born as His devotees for six births or as His enemies for three births. Jaya and Vijaya chose the latter as they thought the sooner they are re-untied with their master the better,  even though they have to play the role of villains.

So in their first descent from heaven as mortal beings they were born as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa. It happened in Satya Yuga.

The story of Hiranyakha

Rishi Kashyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the devas and other auspicious beings were born to Aditi while the demons in general, and Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in particular, were born to Diti. Hiranyakha, the elder one, was conceived during the evening time and stayed in the womb for one hundred years.

Hiranyakha, which means – one whose eyes are obsessed with gold. It signifies the greed for wealth and all worldly desires. The greedy and the lustful ultimately become tyrants and sadists. So it happened with Hiranakhya that he became a  burden  for the existence.

At his birth itself the universe was filled with inauspicious omens that scared the devas. They went to Lord Vishnu and sought protection. Lord Vishnu assured them that when the time was ripe he would descend to restore the balance.

Hiranyakha grew up to be a great devotee of Lord Brahma. The severity of his penances moved Lord Brahma. Knowing full well that boons given to this demon would only be misused,  Lord Brahma had to give  him boons which granted him immunity from being killed by any God, human or demon.

True to the predicament of the Gods, Hiranyakha started misusing his powers. Entering the sea, he started churning it with his waist. Varun Dev, the Lord of the Sea was upset. Yet the notoriety of Hiranyakha was so much that Varun Dev, instead of offering a fight, went to hide himself.

Narada Muni, the beloved of all Gods, demons and humans happened to pass by. He stopped for a chitchat with Hiranyakha. Hiranyakha asked Naradji if there was anyone now more powerful than him. “Yes”,  said Naradji, “It is none other than Lord Vishnu.” Thus saying Narad muni disappeared instantly, without stopping to provide whereabouts of Lord Vishnu or any further information.

Hiranyakha started searching for Lord Vishnu everywhere he could go, but to no avail. Frustrated, he made the earth into a round ball and hid it in the cosmic ocean, so as to provoke Lord Vishnu to  come to him.

The devas panicked and approached Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took the form of a wild boar. It was his Varah avataar – the third one. Lord Vishnu took this Avataar so as not to transgress the boon given by Lord Brahma. There ensued a fierce fight between Lord Vishnu in his Varah Avtaar and the demon Hiranyakha. Finally Hiranyakha was killed and the earth was restored to its former glory.

The demonic mind set is that even after so much penance it asks for power and glory – the things that are transient. Neither does it rest in peace, nor does it allow others  to have it. It seeks power and glory to torment others. In contrast, the person with divine mindset seeks love, beauty or truth. Even if it gets power,  it is utilised for the benefit of the mankind.

the sentinels of vishnu part #2

Indian Bloggers

Lord Shiva – The strange God from time immemorial

shiva

Even the puranas, that portray him with human attributes, are silent about his birth. Being Shankara – who has your welfare in his mind, he is close to our heart, yet he remains the most mysterious one riddled with contradictions.

He makes the profane sacred so he lives in burial grounds. Is it an attempt by ancient seers to remove taboos associated with places that people are reluctant to visit?

He remains unaffected even after taking so much poison. The world has both nectar and poison.

To remain unaffected by the poisons of the world requires the state of shivahood.

He is the embodiment of Isha Vashyam Idam Sarvam  – as he lives everywhere.

He is known as kalantaka – the one that ends time. Do we have an indication towards the state of deep meditation or samadhi where one transcends time.

As part of the trinity – the role assigned to him is that of a destroyer. But he is the ultimate savior. During the churning of the seas, he drinks poison. At the time of descent of Ganga, he takes her on his head.

All contradictions manifest and merge in him. He is an embodiment of yin and yang. He is ardhanariswara : half man – half woman. He is an ascetic and a householder at  the same time. He lives in Kailash, where there is only happiness and joy and in burial ground – the place of ultimate grief.

He is worshipped by Gods, human beings and demons. He is worshiped mostly as phallic symbol. At the same time he is known as the destroyer of kama – the god associated with lust.

He is the manifestation of the ultimate. He is nishkama, he is gnaneswara – lord of knowledge, he is mukteswara – lord of ultimate freedom. However, in puranas he is described as a householder who is prone to all human emotions.

He is worshiped by both Rama and Ravana. It signifies the impartiality of the primordial principle – the rit. It shows that the divine rejects none. All are part of Him. Of course finally Rama wins so that balance of dharma is maintained.

He is worshiped by the sober Gyani. At the same time he is the favourite God of the masts  who indulge in addictive substances on his name. This could be misreading of the state of bliss or the twisted logic of the addict to rationalise their addiction and claim social acceptance.

He is truly a strange God who does not mind being part of strange and bizarre rituals. The sacred and the profane merge. All are welcome. Even his entourage consists of strange beings and non beings like goblins. Anybody can stake claim to him.

However, amidst all the chaos, He is calmness manifest. He remains centred and free from all attachments.

He is the mystic of mystics. I grapple for words to describe his full glory. To such a lord I bow down with reverence.

Om Namah Shivaya.

Indian Bloggers

An Inquiry into the Nature of Reality

In spite of so much development in science and technology, even scientists are baffled by the elusive nature of the sub-atomic particles. So in my attempt to inquire into the nature of reality, I am reminded of one of the vedic skeptic statements known as the Nasadiya Sukta. It is a hymn in the Rig Veda and is regarded as the first agnostic statement of our civilization.

The last stanza of the Sukta reads thus:

Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know

nasadiya-sukta

In this context it is worth being reminded of the famous zen story:

The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, “Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?

Even after thousands of years of evolution, we have not reached finality with regard to the knowledge of the ultimate reality. Who can say for certain what is reality and what is illusion?

Many mystics and metaphysical poets have had visions of reality that they tried to express it in their own mystical ways. It is difficult to decipher them for the lay man. It will be like deciphering the babbles of a drunk for the sober ones. But certain aspects of reality can be experienced in an altered state of consciousness, or so it is claimed (including amateur mystics like me).

The Buddhist view of reality is that it is all nothingness, things are born of nothingness and go back to nothingness (Sunyabaad). Adi Sankara, the proponent of Adwaita Vedanta,  had a contrarian view. He said that it is all fullness. Even the first sloka of Isavasya upanishad propounds :

Ishabashyam idam sarvam jat kinchit jagatyan jagat.

(What-so-ever there is, it is all filled with the essence of Ishwara)

While the eastern approach to reality has been an intuitive one, the western approach has been scientific. Or, we can say the eastern approach has been to look within where as the western approach has been to look outward. Hope at some point of time, they converge and east and west do meet.

The latest development is that science has nearly come to discover  the God Particle which would solve the mystery about the nature of the ultimate reality. The basic fundas about the God Particle, in simple terms, are as follows:

Electron, proton and neutron are the trinity of the atomic science and each has some mass however negligible. An atom contains these three basic particles which are in turn formed by interaction of mass less particles called quarks.  How these basic particles acquire mass has remained a mystery for the scientists. In 1964, a British physicist, Peter Higgs, came up with this idea that there must exist a background field passing through which particles acquire mass by being dragged through a mediator, which was subsequently named the Higgs Boson. The scientists sometimes call it the “God Particle” — it is everywhere but remains frustratingly elusive.

This reminds us of the Upanishads where God is conceived of as the substratum of everything, subtler than an atom, pure energy, present everywhere but elusive. Coincidentally, quantum physicists have found that their theories are not much different from the teachings of the Upanishads.

In March 2009, the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory came close to finding the God particle. What prevented them from finding the particle was a component malfunction in the Lab. Even though it still remains elusive, the scientists have come closer with each subsequent experiments at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland and elsewhere.

I am hopeful that if scientists continue with their experiments, one day they will definitely nail the elusive God Particle. God willing, of course. 😀

Till then there is nothing that prevents us from enjoying the mystery of reality, illusion, delusion, the gods or the God Delusions.

Transcendental Mathematics

As far as the evolution of the Indian thought system is concerned, zero has been as much a mathematical concept as a spiritual one.  The whole philosophy of Buddha is based on sunyata, nothingness. By the way the Sanskrit word for zero is sunya. When the philosophy, spirituality and mathematical use of zero was at its zenith in India, their western counterparts wondered how can nothing be something.

In India of the vedic age, there was no distinction  between religion and science. A highly developed form of mathematics was used to place various temples in the geography of India and to construct individual temples. The Garbhagriha – sanctum sanctorum  –  was the sunya griha where for a moment the mind of the pilgrim went blank.

In eastern philosophy, existence was conceived as the paradox of being and nothingness. Buddha’s view was that the whole existence is a great void, it is all empty and nothingness. Then came Shankara who said there is fullness in everything.

While ‘nothingness’ was the basis of a rebellious religion and philosophy, ‘nothing’ was the starting point in the evolution of mathematics.

To make things simple, and from a mathematical point of view, let me divide all mathematics into three categories.

First of all, is the logical sequential common sense mathematics where two plus two is four. It has tremendous use in our day to day affairs. All scientific progress and commercial transactions are based on this. This is the mathematics that we learn as a part of curriculum in our educational institutions. Let us call it the logical mathematics.

Secondly, there is this mathematics of the group dynamics or for simplicity let us call it the dynamic mathematics. There is a proverb in Hindi –Ek aur ek gyarah – one plus one becomes eleven. According to the logical mathematics if one person does x amount of work in a day and another does y amount of work in a day, then both will do x+y amount of work. However according to dynamic mathematics both will do much more than x+y amount of work. Whenever two people work together they create a third force in the form of group dynamics or synergy that adds something to the total output. Of course if this third force is negative, then the total output will be less than the sum of individual outputs. If two people are able to lift a stone to a height of one meter it does not mean that one person will be able to lift it to a height of half a meter. One person may not be able to lift it at all.  When a bird flies with its flock in a formation it uses less energy than it would do for the same distance if it flew individually. The synergy among the birds is such that even a sick bird that can hardly fly is carried along once it is a part of the formation.

Then, there is the mathematics of the transcendental or the mathematics of the mystical experience. Most of us are familiar with the first declaration of the Ishavasya Upanishad – Purnamadah purnamidam purnat purna mudachyate. Purnashya purnamadaya purnamevavashishyate. That is whole, and this also is whole. For only the whole is born out of the whole; And when the whole is taken from the whole, the remainder is whole.

This sloka attempts to describe the mystical experience of the ultimate reality. It is beyond logic. One has to transcend logic to get a glimpse of such mystical experience. Along with the illogical concept of zero,  when some western logicians came across such declarations, they thought that the eastern seers who composed the Upanishads were lunatics.

Even though it is difficult to understand this sloka with our logical mind some indications can be given. Now water can be divided but not liquidity. When a jug of water is taken out from a bucket full of water the quality of liquidity is neither improved nor downgraded.

Or let us take another example. There is a rose plant. We cut a branch and plant it at another place where it grows into a plant again. When we cut a live plant what we are actually taking out is the tree-ness or the essence of the tree. However the tree-ness or the essence of the first tree remains whole at the same time the new branch also grows into a whole tree. We cannot say that by cutting the earlier tree the wholeness in either has been affected.

To make things simpler (or, more confusing),  substitute the ‘purna’ in the above sloka with zero. Now you have something to argue with the logician, who has at least accepted the concept of zero i.e something is possible out of nothing.

To make things the simplest, meditate with Buddha or listen to  Shankar’s Bhajagovindam. You will realise the nothingness of everything either way.

Indian Bloggers

Couplets of Kabir- My top ten favourites

 

It is not for nothing that Kabir’s sayings are known as ulat vani. Whatever he says it seems contrary to our common knowledge or perception. This was not only true for his spiritual sayings, but also for his couplets giving worldly wisdom. Take this first stanza of my compilation. Our usual tendency is to  keep close to someone who praises us and avoid someone who blames and criticizes us. But Kabir says that  the person who criticizes  you is your dearest friend and you should make a house for him in your inner courtyard. He wrote thousands of such couplets during his life time. Here are ten of my most favorite couplets:

I

A true friend

Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye;
Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.

Kabir says that one should keep one’s critics close, even making a place for them in our courtyard. Without water or soap they clean up one’s  blemishes.

 The passionate critic is like bitter medicine. Of course sometimes people may blame us due to their own bias or lack of understanding. In such cases at least they make us aware of our actions and people’s reactions. The bonus advantage of keeping company of such a person is that they stop us from being egoistic, arrogant or developing a casual attitude.

II

Shun ego and speak

Aisi vani boliye, man ka aapa khoye

Auran ko sheetal kare, aaphu sheetal hoye

Shunning your ego, speak in such a manner that you remain un-agitated at the same time others are pleased.

 This second one may seem to contradict the first. It may mean- while you welcome other’s  criticism, do not do this favor to others. Others might not have heard of the first stanza of Kabir. There are different kinds of people and everybody may not take your frank opinion kindly. So talk sweet and soothing. Remember the sanskrti saying – ko satru priyavadinah.  A person who says what is agreeable cannot make enemies.

What Kabir says here  is that when you talk to someone out of your ego, it agitates you and others. So speak thus so that it does not cause mental disturbance neither in others  nor in you. For that, one has to be egoless and innocent. Sometimes a child may say things that are not agreeable. Yet, it does not cause disturbance in us because the child is so egoless.

III

Do not throw pearls before a swine

Hira wahan na kholiye jahan kujdon ki  hat

Bandho chup ki potri, laagahu apni bat

This couplet reminds me of the saying in the Bible – Do not throw pearls before the swine. One must speak according to the knowledge level and taste of the audience. Or else it is a waste of time and effort and in some cases may lead to being humiliated and frustration coming from selling mirrors to the blind.

IV

The saint is beyond caste and creed

Jat na puchho sadh ki puchh lijiyo gyan

Mol karo talwar ka, pade rehen do myan

In the times of Kabir, the caste system was at its height of ugliness. Kabir was born to a caste of weavers. Another remarkable thing about the century when Kabir was born, was that many of the saints and proponents of Bhakti  were from the lower castes. They were widely accepted. At the same time the higher caste people must have tried to revive the stigma attached to the people of lower castes who became spiritually advanced. Hence, Kabir here urges people to venerate a saint not by his caste but by his knowledge. He compares knowledge to the  sword and caste to the scabbard.  Even in modern times all over the world, many forms of discriminations are prevalent based on race, religion, region etc. In a wider context, a person should not be subject to bias based on his caste, creed, race, nationality etc.

V

Take the plunge and be saved

Jin khoja tin paiya, gahare pani paith

Mein Bapura budan Raha, RAha Kinare Baith

It is a beautiful example of Kabir’s specialty in ulatvani. He says – the person who went deep into the water in search,  got it and was saved, But I, who sat on the shores,  got drowned. Kabir urges us to sun our fears and laziness for the spiritual adventure. The person who is complacent and cares too much for security, in fact, finds that he/she has drowned in the worldly miseries and got deprived of the ultimate gem of spiritual experience. The spiritual journey needs some sort of risk and sacrifice. Those who take the risk get it, like the diver who dives deep and comes back with something.

VI

They do not understand, so they fight

Hindu kahe mohi Ram Piyara, Turk kahe Rehmana

Aapas mein dou ladi ladi mue, maram kou na jaana

This couplet is as appropriate today as it has been since ages. For the Hindu, Ram is the ultimate and for the Muslim, Rehmana is the one and so on. Even though all religions at some level teach the oneness of humanity and the Godhead, the followers become fanatic over their form of worship. Some take to sword and some to evangelism, forcing and urging people to accept that theirs is the only way. But none of these fanatics know the truth in essence. So they fight onto death.

VII

Good times, bad times

Sukh mein sumiran sab kare, dukh mein kare na koy

Jo sukh mein sumiran kare, dukh kahe ko hoy

It is exam time. Time for the ill prepared to go to temple, remember Jesus or Allah. Or, somebody is seriously ill. Even the doctor says (in line with our popular Bollywood dialogue) – Inhe abhi dawa nahin,  dua ki jarurat hai. People usually remember God or come to spiritual practices only when in distress. But, Kabir says, if you regularly remember God or do your spiritual practices, there will be no occasion for sorrow to befall on you.  Even if it comes, your wisdom will make light of it so that you do not feel distressed.

VIII

Search within

Kasturi kundal base, mrig dhundhat ban mahi

Jyo ghat ghat ram hai, duniya dekhe nahi

A deer has the fragrance in itself and runs throughout the forest for finding it. Similarly God is everywhere but we miss it and run round and round like the deer. Quite often we miss what is so obvious, what is so omnipresent and what is so close.

IX

When the ocean drops into a drop

Boond samani hai samundar mein, janat hai sab koi

Samundar samana boond mein, bujhe birla koi

This is another beautiful example of ulatvani. When a drop merges into the ocean, everyone understands it, but it is the rare one who understands the essence of the ocean merging into the drop.

Even in spiritual context, it is said that the ultimate aim for the individual consciousness is to merge with the universal consciousness. Even it can be seen this way – the ultimate aim of the devotee is to merge in God. But Kabir says that the phenomenon is just the opposite. When the devotee reaches its zenith, God comes to meet and merge in him. The devotee becomes the universe, the individual conscious becomes the universal consciousness.

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The consciousness beyond all dualities

Had mein chale so maanava, behad chale so saadh

Had behad dono taje, taako bata agaadh

A normal human being is confined in limitations. The Sadhu transcends human limitations. But still there is a higher state, that goes beyond limit and limitlessness. The depth and understanding of such a being is unfathomable.

Kabir urges the spiritual aspirant to go beyond all dualities, including the dualities of limit and limitlessness.